Urinary tract infections are a common occurrence in women. They are more susceptible due to a shorter urethra, thus giving bacteria a shorter distance to travel. Women are four times as likely to get a UTI as their male counterparts. In fact, only three percent of men worldwide are likely to have a UTI each year. Yet, it is possible, and often far more complicated than in a female. In men, the infection seems to spread faster to the kidneys once it has begun.
In men the urinary tract consists of the urethra, the bladder, the prostate, and the kidneys.
Why do UTIs occur in men?
It is possible, though rare, for a man to get a UTI from having a sexual encounter with a woman. Most of the time the UTI is caused by bacteria that are already inside the man’s urinary tract. The bacteria settle in to grow when a man is unable to fully empty his bladder.
An enlarged prostate gland is often the reason for the inability to completely empty the bladder and flush out the bacteria. Though an enlarged prostate can be attributed to cancer, it is more commonly caused by benign prostatic hyperplasia (noncancerous enlargement of the prostate). A man’s prostate wraps around the bladder’s slim neck region. This is where the urethra connects to the bladder as well. If the prostate becomes enlarged, it can squeeze the bladder’s neck and make it difficult for the urine to flow properly through the tubes. Bacteria isn’t flushed out and begins growing.
Signs of a UTI in men
Men share most of the same symptoms of a urinary tract infection with women.
- Painful burning during urination, or a tingling sensation after urination
- Frequent trips to the bathroom with little results
- Change in urine color; white, cloudy, pink-tinged, red, dark
- Urine scent that is strong or offensive
- Pelvic pain, pain in the sides or back that doesn’t end when you change positions
- Slow stream of urine or some leakage
- The inability to begin urination or dribbling
- Low grade fever
- Prostatitis – a prostate infection which has its own symptoms. These include fever, chills, fatigue, pain between the rectum and scrotum, painful ejaculation, and dribbling instead of a steady stream.
Which men are at risk of a UTI?
- Kidney stones or other obstructions
- An enlarged prostate
- An abnormal narrowing of the urethra or other abnormalities of the urinary tract
- Fecal incontinence
- Taking medication that suppresses the immune system
- Inability to completely empty the bladder
- Use of a catheter
- Immobility for long periods of time
- Being uncircumcised
- Having anal intercourse
- Having had a recent procedure on the urinary tract; surgery, catheterization (inserting a tube to drain fluid from the bladder), cystoscopy (inserting a tiny camera to examine the urethra and bladder)
UTIs in men: Diagnosis and treatment
A physician will ask for a urine sample. It will be immediately sent to the lab for an evaluation as to the type of bacteria. The doctor may also perform a dipstick test, placing a test strip in a small amount of the patient’s urine. If the stick changes color the doctor is instantly aware that the patient has a UTI.
Patients may be asked to endure a digital rectal exam, especially if they are over fifty. The physician will place a glove covered finger inside the rectum to feel for an enlarged prostate.
Once the condition is diagnosed, a prescription for antibiotics will be given to the patient. Depending on the type of bacteria, the patient’s overall health, and the severity of the UTI, he may be taking medication from three days to six weeks. The usual regime for men is seven days.
The patient may receive pain medication or something for fever. If not, then over the counter medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and phenazopyridine will suffice.
Complicated infection sometimes require surgery. This may include draining some areas of the urinary tract or removing inflamed tissue.
Preventing UTIs in men
Most men would rather prevent a UTI than suffer from one. There are actions men can take that make an already small likelihood of urinary tract infection even smaller.
- Empty the bladder fully and often
- Drink plenty of water. Alcohol and caffeine are irritants
- If not circumcised, then clean the area under the foreskin after a shower
- Wear condoms during sexual encounters
- Be sure to urinate immediately after sex
- Cleanse the genitals thoroughly before and after sex
- Wear dry, clean underwear. Change daily.
Once a patient has begun the antibiotics he should feel better quickly. If the symptoms continue or worsen the individual should inform the doctor as a change of treatment may be necessary. The patient must finish all the antibiotics even if he thinks he is well. Ending them too soon can cause a repeat of the UTI, and make the bacteria more resistant to the antibiotic prescribed. In those cases, only the weakest of the bacteria will die off and the more aggressive bacteria will be given a chance to grow. This could lead to a serious condition or permanent kidney damage.